Nearly six years ago, I had a major fashion conundrum. I needed to buy clothes for my interview weekend at First Congregational Church of Western Springs. Since we were living in Southern California, my wardrobe was sorely lacking in the necessities you need in the midst of a Midwestern winter. In addition to a warm dress coat, I needed an outfit for my day of leading worship, fielding interview questions, lunch with the senior pastor and his wife, and dinner with the search committee members and their spouses.
For my interview at South Bay Christian Church more than a decade ago, I wore what was quite possibly the worst suit ever to grace the racks of Target. It was jet black linen with shoulder pads roughly the size of my head; I paired it with an orchid-colored button up shirt from Steinmart. I looked very much like a little girl impersonating an adult. I just assumed that one had to wear a suit to an interview.
I didn't want to feel like I was wearing a costume for my interview at First Congo. I consulted with Erica Schemper, one of the pastors I'd met through The Young Clergy Women Project. She lived in the Chicago area, and had great style, and would surely not lead me astray.
Her advice in my back pocket, I headed not to the suit rack at Nordstroms, but to the sweater section at Anthropologie. I picked out a flowy, ballerina style black wool sweater that happened to be on clearance. It still cost more than any single article of clothing I'd ever before purchased - including my wedding dress (my wedding dress was really cheap). As I appraised myself in the fitting room, I liked what I saw. I didn't look like a little girl impersonating an adult. I looked like myself. (Only considerably more stylish than usual.)
That sweater, for me, means two things.
First, that sweater was (and still is) my declaration that while sometimes ministry may require a suit, ministry is a creative profession. This is one of the things I love most about ministry. From my writing to my pastoral care, from my worship leadership to my committee roles, my best work is rooted in creativity. My approach to ministry is more akin to the work of an artisan than a business woman. And it's perfectly acceptable to dress like it.
And second, that sweater is a tangible reminder of the ministry of The Young Clergy Women Project. Being a part of that community's inception was one of the most critical things that happened to me in the last decade, professionally and personally. Some of my dearest friends and colleagues are a part of that group. Their collective wisdom has carried me. They have helped me understand that I am only being faithful to my call if I respond to that call as myself, not impersonating who I think a pastor should be - or what I think a pastor should look like.
I was happy to contribute a bit to the fall fundraiser, to say #ThanksTYCWP.